Feds go after Blago's campaign funds

April 2, 2009 (CHICAGO) Rod Blagojevich has had a limited use of his campaign funds to pay for some of his legal expenses. The indictment seeks the forfeiture of money in the Friends of Blagojevich campaign fund. The government is also going after other alleged ill-gotten gains, and could seize his home.

All of this raises the question: how does Blagojevich pay for a defense that will cost a lot of money?

"Everything I do is always done within the parameters of the constitution," said former Gov. Blagojevich in January of 2008.

That's not the way the government sees it. At its core, the indictment of Rod Blagojevich accuses him of the theft of honest services to the people of Illinois. That was also the foundation of the government's case against George Ryan.

"It's very much like George Ryan's indictment, and looking ahead to trial, I see a lot of document review, just like in George Ryan's case, plus some very spicy tapes," said Prof. Leonard Cavise, DePaul College of Law.

The playing of those tapes, and the trial itself may easily be two years away. It will be a long, expensive procedure. It was for George Ryan who received a pro bono defense that by some estimates cost the law firm of Winston and Strawn roughly $20 million, though they have never confirmed that amount.

Some lawyers believe defending Blagojevich could cost that much and more, except this former governor does not have a big law firm ready to work for free.

His former lead lawyer left the case two months ago, and while he does have two well respected attorneys preparing his defense, they may not be able to access his political fund to get paid.

Thursday's indictment seeks the forfeiture of Friends of Blagojevich campaign funds in four banks, as well as just over $188,000 in alleged ill-gotten gains. And if that money isn't recoverable, the government would be prepared to seize Blagojevich's Chicago home and an apartment he holds in Washington DC.

"They're entitled to do that if there's a nexus connecting between how he finances his house and the crimes, but it's pretty aggressive. You don't often see them go after someone's house," said Pat Collins, former assistant U.S. attorney.

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